The German Language – Reflexive Verbs and Pronouns

Today I am going to attempt to explain reflexive verbs and reflexive pronouns, as they pertain to the German language.

Many languages make use of reflexive verbs, including German and English.  However, German uses it far more frequently than English. But wait! What is a “reflexive verb?”  In short, a reflexive verb is a verb whose subject and direct object act as the same thing.  That’s a lot of grammar jargon to say, “a verb in which the person doing the verb and the person/thing being acted upon are the same.”  For example, in English:

I wash myselfYou wash yourself.  Etcetera.

In bold above are the subject and direct objects respectively.  Think of reflexive verbs as verbs which you use to say that you’re doing something to yourself.

This chart from:

tells us that, with the exception of sich, the reflexive pronouns in German are just regular pronouns:

German Reflexive Pronouns Chart

Let’s take the reflexive German verb, sich waschen, which means to wash (oneself).  If I wanted to say “I wash myself,” this is how I’d do it:

Ich wasche mich.

In bold again are the subject and direct object respectively.


I hope this helps and if you have questions, ask in the comments!



Syntactic Expletives – “Es”

So I was watching Downfall (Der Untergang) a few weeks ago, and in a particular scene, Hitler said the following to a group of Nazis:

Es bleiben im Raum: Keitel, Jodl, Krebs, und Burgdorf.

I happened to be able to deduce what he was really saying; he was telling Keitel, Jodl, Krebs, and Burgdorf to stay in the room, and the rest of the people to leave. I deduced that because I am familiar with the last three words of the command: bleiben (to remain; stay), im (in the), and Raum (room).

What I did not understand was why he said “Es bleiben…” If you are familiar with the conjugation of German verbs, you know that “bleibt” would be the correct finite form for the third-person point-of-view. I was confused, and so I reached out to my latest obsession, a German language Q&A site,, and asked the question:

Could someone explain why he chose bleiben over the finite-verb bleibt?

I was quickly informed by jarnbjo that, in the context of the sentence, “es” is merely a syntactic expletive. Wikipedia defines these as:

Words that perform a syntactic role but contribute nothing to meaning.

In other words, in this case, “es” is added and the word order is changed in order to emphasize the action, or verb, rather than the subject. Easy, right? Jarnbjo also pointed out that the sentence is, in essence, saying this:

Keitel, Jodl, Krebs und Burgdorf bleiben im Raum.

Danke Jarnbjo! You helped me out quite a bit!




Welcome to my blog! I’m Dustin.

During the adventure that I have continued to embark upon since 2011, I will use this blog as a journal to document my goals, progress, and things I learn whilst studying German.  I’m not sure if anyone will ever read this, but it will help me, and I hope, if you’re reading this because you’re interested in learning a language, that it’s helpful and/or inspirational to you.

Danke im Voraus! 🙂